Mobile Advertising Made Simple
The world of mobile advertising is often accused of being overly complicated, so when Guy Cookson, co-founder of Azullo, the company behind the 'Respond' mobile advertising platform, explains how it works to me, it sounds deceptively simple. Almost too simple, in fact, and too good, to be true.
The picture below, from a page on the Manchester Evening News mobile site, probably tells the story better than any words can. Rather than occupying the traditional banner space at the top or the bottom of the page, Respond ads occupy white space within the content.
“Digital advertising has become much more interruptive to counter ‘banner blindness’ and falling response rates,” says Cookson. “But eye-tracking studies show that when people are absorbed in the content, the content is all they see. The Respond ads get their attention, but not at the expense of the user experience.”
The ads are deliberately simple, just a small text box in a choice of three colours - blue, green and orange. Having experimented with more overt branding, the company reverted to the straight text box when it saw clickthrough rates fall.
“Our advertisers tell us that they are seeing a 10-fold increase in clickthrough rates and when we ran a survey looking at brand recall and purchase intent, that showed a 9.5-fold increase over traditional mobile banner advertising,” Cookson continues. “I think the figures are so good because more people are noticing the message because it is in a format they recognise and in a place where people look. It gets people’s attention, without spoiling the user experience.”
The ads are targeted based on the type of content on the mobile site the user is looking at. So a sportswear advertiser can choose to target ads at pages containing sports content, but an advertiser looking to think a little more laterally also has scope to do so. A car maker, for example could choose to target users reading content about golf on mobile sites. The click typically takes the user to some kind of mobile experience, usually a mobile site, though Cookson says that advertisers are also using the platform for click-to-call and app downloads.
Azullo’s relationship with the publishers sites – it works with IPC, Dennis, Future, the Manchester Evening News and smaller niche players with big audiences - is akin to that of a premium ad network. The publisher has to insert the Respond code on their site, advertisers know the portfolio of sites on which their ads will appear, and there’s no involvement with any other ad networks. That said, the text ads could, and often do, appear on the same page as a traditional banner ad served by a traditional ad network. At present, the Respond ads are only served on mobile sites, though Cookson says the company is looking at the idea of serving them within apps. Advertisers include Betfair, Netflix and Groupon.
The inventory is sold on a CPC or cost per engagement basis. “With the cost per engagement model, when the button is clicked, the user is served the advertising content in an overlay, and this has to be viewed for three seconds in order for the advertiser to be billed,” says Cookson. “We designed it this way to prevent accidental clicks.”
Cookson started the company two years ago after meeting his co-founder, Andrew Dobson while both were working at JobSite. (In fact, JObSite bought the start-up where Cookson was working, Dobson joined JObSite soon after.)
It has had three rounds of funding since then and the concept has evolved. “We’ve developed it in a very Agile way,” he says. “We started out with a basic version, took all the feedback on board and took it on from there. We tried multiple variations of the three colours, for example, and the advertiser brand icon, but we found that what works best is to deliver something simple that’s easy to read and loads quickly.”
In many ways, Respond seems like the antithesis of the current vogue in mobile advertising towards sophisticated, rich media creative solutions. Cookson says this is no accident.
“I do think a lot of people are trying to deliver the payoff too soon with something too graphical and interruptive at stage one,” he says. “We think it’s better to take it slowly and introduce people to the concept with a message that will make them want to click in the most simple, user-friendly way possible, and having accomplished that, you then have their permission to display the full-screen experience. Post-click, you can go crazy, show people video demonstrations, whatever, but you’ll never get past first base if you don’t capture their interest and attention. People are smart and sophisticated; you don’t need to assault their senses to get their attention.”
Guy Cookson is co-founder of Azullo